Calligraphic Oil Painting

A friend of mine, Samantha, posted the cutest photo of eggplants she grew in her garden. She captioned it, “My morning harvest”. The eggplants deserved to be immortalized! This was the perfect chance for me to experiment with layering text and images for a calligraphic oil painting.

Background & Materials

I looked at Samantha’s comments to see what she might make with them: babaganoush, roast eggplant, and grilled eggplant. I used an oil painting paper pad by Arches (purchased at Arizona Art Supply in Phoenix, Az. Shop Local if you can!). I chose to rule guidelines using a stylus to make an impression in the paper rather than using a pencil. Pencil doesn’t generally erase if it gets wet and I planned to write the eggplant possibilities in watercolor.

Original calligraphy and oil painting by Renee McAdam. Baby eggplants and recipe ideas.

The calligraphy I used for the names of the dishes in Foundational Hand. After the calligraphy dried, I painted the whole surface of the paper with a yellow acrylic paint wash. This was to seal it against the coming layer of oil paint so the watercolor wouldn’t be disturbed. I also did this because I wanted the purple of the eggplants to contrast with the yellow background. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of smearing the calligraphy anyway, but this was an experiment and some of my letters looked better . . . modified. I let this dry completely.

The Eggplant Layer

I transferred the outlines of the photo onto the paper. Normally, I would have sketched the composition myself and transferred it to the page over the calligraphy. While I love to draw, sometimes this becomes an obstacle to completing my idea and I burn out. Oil painting artist Alpay Efe encourages viewers to just transfer the outlines of an image straight from the photo and get started on painting! Or, in my case, a calligraphic oil painting.

So that’s what I did. Purple is my favorite color and I enjoyed mixing it up and working some red into the eggplants to bring them to life. It was a lesson in non-attachment to paint over some of my “good” calligraphy! I let some of the painting dry so that I could come back later and define some of the edges and brighten up highlights here and there.

Finishing Touches

Another thing I am working with is letting go of work I did that I like. I intended to give this calligraphic oil painting to Samantha to remember her “Morning Harvest” by. I cut a custom mat for it using black mat board. Once I placed it in a black frame, it was ready to hang. I gave it Samantha over coffee and she said she had the perfect spot in her kitchen for it!

This piece measures 9″ by 6″.

The Final Painting, Framed